Save the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica!

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH, or Ritman Library) in Amsterdam has been a very important institution for research into hermetic philosophy and related currents, particularly early modern Rosicrucianism and alchemy, for decades. In a dramatic and very unsettling turn of events, the library’s existence as we know it is now being threatened. It is all very unclear what will happen, but there is no doubt that spreading the word and creating attention around the developments is the least we can do to try and influence things in the best possible direction – to save the library, the staff, and its national heritage collection of manuscripts and printed books. Please sign this petition, and feel free to spread the word to anyone you think should know about this. For more information, read the note below.


Express your protest against the dissolution of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Ritman Library)

It is widely known that the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, founded by J.R. Ritman, was in great danger in the 1990s, when the ING bank took possession of the collection and threatened to sell it. Fortunately, the Dutch government intervened: the BPH was put on the list of protected Dutch heritage, and the State eventually acquired over 40% of it. The books remained at the same physical location, integrated with the rest of the collection, and the government would eventually acquire all of it. As part of this process, there were great plans for further expansion. Largely due to the financial crisis and a change of government this was taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated, but nobody doubted that the library was safe.

Last week this turned out to be incorrect. An extremely valuable medieval manuscript owned by the BPH (The Grail of Rochefoucauld) was put on sale at Sotheby’s, and this triggered a reaction from the Friesland Bank, which took possession of the library, that had apparently been brought in as collateral, in order to get back a 15 million euro loan from mr Ritman. At present the BPH is closed, and intense negotiations are going on behind closed doors. It is impossible at this moment to predict the outcome, but there is no doubt that the situation is extremely serious. There is a very real possibility that the Friesland bank will try to sell at least the ca. 60% of the library that is still owned by mr Ritman, and nobody knows what implications this will have for the rest of the collection and the BPH as a whole, including its staff. The brand-new government of the Netherlands has announced a program of radical financial cuts in the culture section and elsewhere, which makes a renewed intervention from that side highly unlikely.
If the Ritman library would go down, this would mean an enormous blow to international scholarship in hermetic studies. The damage would be irreversible. By signing this petition you express your concern, and ask the Dutch government and the Friesland bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved and will remain available for the international scholarly community.

Additionally, you can express your concern by means of a signed letter. The initiative for this petition comes from the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and related Currents at the University of Amsterdam (organizationally independent of the BPH, and not in any danger itself), so please send your letter to its director: Prof. Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Oude Turfmarkt 141-147, 1012 GC Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Email: w.j.hanegraaff [ at ]

Help save the library: Sign the petition.


UPDATE: A new blog has been created for the preservation of the Ritman Library. Check it out and show your support!


The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

82 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Save the library!

  2. Please save the hermetic library!

  3. This resource should have been declared a European treshure a long time ago. Its library is a beautiful and rich documentation of the material and fenomenon of the pivotal development of the European thought leading to enlightenment and science.

  4. Egil,
    So distressing! Could you give me the names of some Dutch newspapers that I could send a letter to in support of the Ritman?

  5. […] of alchemical, hermetic, rosicrucian and gnostic books & manuscripts is in danger of closing. Find out how you can help!” via […]

  6. Parool, nrc, nrc next, volkskrant, AD (Algemeen Dagblad) telegraaf, to get you started.

    • Robert-Thanks!!

  7. Also, one European member of a group I posted this information to has suggested people contact their deputies at the European Parliament, calling for what Jan is saying: the library should be a protected treasure of European–and world–history.

  8. Very distressing! Let us hope that those involved will understand that the intrinsic value of the collection as a whole outweighs the monetary gain by selling parts of it.


  9. Please keep the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica intact!

  10. SAVE IT!!

  11. to close is not only a disaster for the community;
    this government is speeding up the discomfort in
    awareness, this is what we can not change, what we want to hold is preserving this library in a free society, by acknowledging the knowing and writing and protecting
    the wisdom in a safe place, first in your mind,as
    you are reading this right now.
    let hermes speak and write freely .


  12. Save the library.

  13. This is something worth.A world treasure!

  14. Save the library.

  15. De kan ikke gjøre dette hvis de har alle de fem sansene eller flere inntakt ;). Å samle alle de bøkene under samme tak i fremtiden vil være umulig, det er en ikke reversibel handling.
    Bare prinsipe med å bytte såne bøker mot penger, høres ut som noe fra en politisk system for ikke langt tilbake, som et hvert oppgående politisksystem ikke bør ver noe noe en er bekjent med.

  16. They can not do this if they have all the five senses or more intact;). To collect all the books under one roof in the future will be impossible, it is not a reversible action.
    Only the principle of swapping saner books for money, sounds like something from a political system not far back, like any rising political system should not be any ver no one is familiar with.

  17. […] can go here to read more and sign a petition to try and keep the collection together. […]

  18. Save the Library!

  19. Save our heritage

  20. hola soy Argentino maravillosa la biblioteca,quisiera saber si tienen libros en pdf u otro formato español,libros antiguos de alquimia,esoterismo,ocultismo,relacionados con la Rosacruz u otros movimientos,desde ya muchas gracias,atte.Sebastian.

  21. Save the Library!

  22. il faut conserver le peut du patrimoine qi nous reste, je suis de tout coeur avec vous

  23. Sicher wäre es ein großes Unglück,wenn diese kostbare Sammlung auseinandergerissen und in alle Welt zerstreut würde. Ihre Schriften sind die unabkömmliche Basis hermetischer philosophischer Studien. Mögen sie es auch bleiben!

  24. All texts need to be preserved for the future. Do not let knowledge and research die.

  25. Please save the hermetic library!

  26. From Barcelona, Spain: SAVE THE LIBRARY!
    (with your permission, I add this link to my own blog)

    • Please do. Spread the message, and sign the petition!

  27. Please, do not sell in part, or as a whole, this archive, it’s importance to heritage, and the knowledge/wisdom it has the ability to impart to the masses far outweighs the material gain which may be procured. Let this not fall prey to the ways of materialism, greed, and power hungry entities. It need not fall into the dark recesses of times past, and forgotten like the Alexandrian Library, and others have, from long ago to the not so distant past. We need to preserve this knowledge, and learn all we can from the amassed works of the collection. Please allow the continuity of this collected body of works to remain wholly intact, for the sake of the people, and our future generations. Save the Bibleotheca Philosophica Hermetica, and all of it’s current contents.

  28. This precious library is a treasure of European culture. The knowledge which its books collect belongs to all of us, and it must not be a “private” property. The library’s ideal worth outweighs the gain by its dissolution by far! As in any closures in the cultures, it is irreversible and a great loss for our culture which we all will soon regret sorely. Do not be this short-sighted. Keep the library, appreciate it and save it! Some 70 years ago, my home country and whole Europe was heavily affected by a “government” which disappreciated the rich culture of many people of this world. It is time to learn from the past. Cultures which have been distroyed in whole or in parts can never be brought back.
    Nora-L. Müller

  29. Dear all of you who have expressed your support – thanks a lot!

    Please don’t forget to also sign the actual petition:

    • Thank you very much. The link is missing in the article. Could you please add it to the blog text so that everybody can find it?

      • No, sorry. I was just too stupid. The link is obviously there.

  30. Save the library! I would love to see it one day.

  31. such collections are interesting in therir entirety, dispersing books brigns to loss of information.

  32. I not only sign this petition but am spreading the word amongst my friends and allies. This is our common philosophical and spiritual heritage. How unspeakable that it comes down to having this collection sold off.

  33. […] has been spreading among blogs and local newspapers in the Netherlands that the J.R. Ritman Library (aka The Bibliotheca […]

  34. S.O.S.


  35. Again those who are afraid of knowledge go to work. only the very stupid or very controling would dimantle and therby destroy this type ofdata base.

  36. […] Save the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica! « Heterodoxology Obscure as this seems: RT @atlasobscura: Save Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica – historic esoteric library in Amsterdam (tags: via:twitter) […]


  38. Wer sich mit geisteswissenschaftlichen Themen beschäftigt, findet in dieser Bibliothek einzigartiges Quellenmaterial, das in dieser Fülle und Qualität wohl einmalig ist und unbedingt erhalten bleiben muß. Das Sammeln dieser Literatur hat sicherlich viele Mühe gekostet und bedeutet einen unwiederbringlichen Verlust, wenn die Sammlung versteigert würde.

  39. Please save this treasure for future generations!

  40. I heard about this recently “through the grapevine”. Indeed, save the library. This is a resource whose significance and value is only just beginning to be realized…

  41. […] in support of the BPH (Ritman Library) The tragic and grave circumstances surrounding the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica hit the news at the end of the week. The Dutch […]

  42. Diese Bibliothek ist einzigartig und unersetzbar. Sie hat den Rang eines Weltkulturerbes und muss erhalten werden!

    Save the BPH!

  43. There is no such thing as a branch of human knowledge that we can afford to ignore, waste, or lose. Please do whatever is necessary to preserve this important collection for future generations. Thank you.

  44. Please save the Library!

  45. It is important that this treasure remains in one place. and his place is in the hands of Mr. Joost Ritman and his team, the greatest connoisseurs of hermetic philosophy in the world.

    Save BPH.

  46. Please save this Library; a treasure for all mankind.

  47. It is imperative to preserve this knowledge/wisdom…

  48. This treasure should be preserved for the benefit of all spiritual seekers.

  49. Please save the Library !

  50. It would be a shame if Holland lost this important part of its spiritual inheritance..

  51. Don’t break up this treasure trove and scatter it all over the world. Aren’t some things more important than money?

  52. I worked for the Library for over 15 years and did a lot of commissioned art work for the collection. I have seen and read a great deal of the books and watched it grow from the basement of Mr Ritman’s house into the major collection it is today. To destroy this valuable asset would not only be a tragedy for Holland, but for scholars all over the world.

  53. It would be a civilisation’s shame to lose this library, as any other library…

  54. By all means, don’t TOUCH the codex. Leave it where scholars the world over can study it and perhaps add more to our knowledge. Selling a rarity like this would be akin to the destruction of the library in Alexandria!



  56. This library can be moved into new builded National Library of Latvia. I am sure there is a space for such amount of books.
    If people starts to speak about such solution, we will see – government of Netherlands will find a money for preserving :)))))))

  57. Please SAVE This Spiritual and Cultural Treasure !!!

  58. Please save this library. It is so important. Start an international fund drive, everyone will contribute. Please, do not let this collection get dispersed.

  59. There are genuine issues in the world about which all mankind should be concerned. It is distressing that time and energy must be spent on something like this when it ought to be a “no-brainer”.
    It is madness to consider casting the contents of this unique institution to the four winds. Do what must be done. Save this library!

  60. […] For more information or to sign the petition click here […]

  61. […] (EXTRA) Oh, how backward and ancient seem those things! I mean the books, made of atoms, unbackup-able! : Heterodoxology blog – Save the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica! […]

  62. Every cut to cultural Institutions is a dramatic loss for humanity

  63. […] was endangered, and is currently closed to the public as Ritman and Friesland Bank negotiate a massive 15 million Euro collateral loan behind closed doors. A Dutch heritage site, and home to many rare hermetic and esoteric works, it is now in danger of […]

  64. Most humans don’t have the knowledge to make a decision in regards as to the importance of such a library as this, please don’t ever separate this wonderful collection of gathered knowledge. There are agents trying to do this, so men can remain stupid. Please do not sell this, it means too much to Human History.
    John F. Scott, Narada Theosophical Society, in Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.

  65. Il faut sauver la Bibliotheca Philosophia Hermatica d’Amsterdam!

  66. […] a month after the conflict between Joost Ritman, Friesland Bank and the Dutch government became public knowledge, it now seems that things have not turned out well for the famous and unique collection of the […]

  67. It is a tremendous loss for mankind!
    But one thing I really cannot understand: why Mr. Ritman himself put the most important book of his library to be sold at Sotheby’s? If the Dutch government has declared the Library a Dutch National Treasure , which means, it cannot be broken up or be sold abroad why put in danger this wonderful heritage?
    Why trigger this conflict????

    • There is a large number of issues to this conflict, only a few of them are publicly known. It suffices to say to say that it’s all very messy. That said, the Grail manuscript was not part of the state owned section of the collection.

      • But was put by him as a colateral loan when he asked money from the Friesland Bank. So he could not sell it without some authorization. This very act mess everything. The law is completely against it and a lawyer could said it to him.
        And also the Dutch government helped him in 1995 declaring the Library a Dutch National Treasure , witch means, he could not sell any book. Specially the most famous book that contains the oldest surviving account of the legends of King Arthur.
        I know he is a very special man and he loves this Library this why I cannot understand what is happening.

      • That’s more or less true. The crucial issue now has been to separate the value of the collection and library from the moral responsibility of its father. That, unfortunately, did prove too difficult for the government in the end.

  68. […] brought some promising news about the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, or Ritman Library, which was closed last November. Due to a large  debt and an ensuing conflict between Mr. Joost Ritman, Friesland […]

  69. Dear Sirs

    This valuable repository of information must be saved at all costs.

  70. Chris De Naeyer. Aalst België.

    Dit zou een misdaad zijn, moest dit verdwijnen.

  71. […] of his old collection, and has been planning to open the library again. Today, almost exactly one year after the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica was shut down, the story has become official. In the mail I found an invitation to the opening of a new […]

  72. […] present: The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica opened again, after facing complete destruction for a year. Unfortunately I was hindered from attending the opening on December 16 due to teaching […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: